An s-shaped bend in the road, running through more than a kilometer. A deep valley on either side of the road. In the middle of the valley, a green bed of papyrus covers a river. The waters of the river are an eerie black, barely visible near the road bridge before disappearing under the thick papyrus under growth.
Just up the river, in a diary farm, huge black and white Freisians graze in the mid-afternoon sunshine. On the bridge itself, another herd of local cattle breeds pulls at the hard, dry grass. White egrets, scared away from the herd of Friesian cattle, rest on the green papyrus growth, making it a bright mosaic. A colony of weaverbirds, the weight of whose nests bend the papyrus reeds, sing a melodious ensemble.
Children, carrying locally improvised hooks, creep through the area of the river near the road. Some of them are carrying small baskets that they occasionally drop into the water. They are actually trying to trap fish. “This place is rich in mud, lung and catfish,” one of them said. Cheering and ululations erupt every time one of them pulls out a catch. Bigger catches are sold to passersby, while smaller ones rare taken home and eaten by the children’s families.
This river is three miles from Wobulenzi towards Nakaseke. It has got a memorable history, especially that of events in the 1981-88 war. Part of it is four centuries old. These children know it, thanks to their parents: “Father told us that there was a lot of fighting at this place,” one of the children said.
The number of combatants who perished at this place is not known, but occasionally, skulls that are plucked out of the river, accidentally by the young fishermen testify to this.
“I have seen three skulls ever since I begun fishing here,” one of the children said. “I have seen two skulls,” another said. They said that every time a skull is found in the waters, it is immediately dropped back. River Lumansi is part of a large belt of wetlands that cuts through the west and northern areas of Buganda. Geographically, the river originates from around busunju, off the better-known River Mayanja. It then runs through Kalasa, before crossing the Wobulenzi-Nakaseke road. It cuts through the rest of Luweero and connects to Nabisojo, a small lake in the north of the district near the Luwero-Masindi border.
For the best part of the war, this was the main line of defence for the Nakaseke sector of the NRA. At this river, heroes like the late Kaggwa showed their velour: “We had very few combatants at this spot, but we defended it for so many years, “Lt (Rtd) Patrick Kibuuka said. He attributed their success in defending this place to its terrain.
We used two general-purpose machine guns, a rocket propelled grenade and later an old 14mm artillery piece. We killed hundreds of soldiers here, because we used to see them approaching the river miles away,” he said. The valley was the natural killing zone.
The history of the war aside, legend has it that this was born of a woman many years ago! “We were told that the river was born by a one Namaganda, wife of a Walusimbi of the Ffumbe clan,” a resident told me. “Walusimbi at first refused to accept the tragedy that had befallen his family, but after being convinced by elders, he named the river Lumansi,” the resident said. Lumansi is a male name from the Ffumbe clan. Cases of women giving birth to rivers are legendary in Buganda.”Once in the papyrus, never say am lost, or else you will get lost. This is a sacred place,” one of the children said. Like its origin, tales of people who ever got lost in the papyrus are as old as legend. Eerie!”
One of the alleged victims of the disappearance is Ssekasamba. “Ssekasamba was a hunter, a very prudent hunger,” a resident, narrates, saying his grandfather, who in turn was in turn told by his grandfather, told him. Ssekasamba was told that a huge antelope had been seen in the papyrus the previous day. He vowed to go for it. “That was the last time Ssekasamba was seen,” the resident said, pausing, as if to add more weight and resonance to his tale. Ssekasamba disappeared in the papyrus he said. “Our grandfather told us that Ssekasamba was the best swimmer around. No river water could manage him. Nothing!”
William Lwanga, the LC1 chairman of the area, confirmed that he has heard of these tales, but has never confirmed any of them: “A lot is said about rivers. I don’t think Lumansi is any different from the others,” he said. He however confirmed that a few skulls have been pulled out of the waters by the children, but all of them have been put back.